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Bar Uriarte

I don’t know how to classify a restaurant like Bar Uriarte, which serves steaks, blood sausage and grilled pizzas, all local favorites, but French terrines and chile-spiked prawns, as well. The local online food guide Guia Olea calls this “Mediterránea” so I will take their word for it.

Supposedly, this is a sceney restaurant but on a Sunday night it was dead with just two other occupied tables and some underdressed, overtanned Brazilian tourists sitting way too close to us. Can you be bridge and tunnel if you live in South America? I don’t think puente y tunnel means anything in Spanish.

I do see how this restaurant is geared towards American tastes and pocketbooks (along with Olsen, it gets mentioned a lot in US media). They serve brunch, which isn’t common in Buenos Aires, and specials written on the chalkboard are in English. I don’t recall if the actual menu was in English or not.

Bar uriarte pancetta wrapped figs

Figs stuffed with goat cheese and almonds and wrapped in prosciutto. This was a split appetizer, decadent but not overwhelming. There was a touch of honey in there, too.

Bar uriarte sweetbreads

Grilled sweetbreads with onion rings, french fries and watercress salad. Who can argue with French fries and onion rings? I had to get a dose of mojellas (sweetbreads) in somehow. Organ meats are rampant in the city, not just at parrillas. I do appreciate the Argentine fondness for offal where it’s low-end, upcale and everywhere inbetween.

Bar uriarte ricotta cheesecake

No, you don’t have to go to Buenos Aires for ricotta cheesecake. It was still a nice dessert, and the white chocolate wasn’t completely typical.

Bar Uriarte * Uriarte 1572, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Frankies 457

Just yesterday I was talking with coworkers about my dislike of Italian-American food. I don’t even know how we got on the topic (oh, yes I do—July is national hot dog month and well, hot dogs are one of the only things in the world I don’t like to eat, along with melon and Italian-American food) but I don’t want to be known as a food snob so I was trying to temper my words. I had no idea that eight hours later I would be sitting down to a plate of pasta. Eating my words, literally.
It’s the heavy starch, cloying tomato sauce and glut of cheese that bothers me. Ground beef rolled into balls doesn’t help matters. As long as these components remain absent, I’m fine.
My friend Jessica had just started taking Spanish classes around the corner from my apartment (I should really get a referral bonus—this is the second pal who has taken up lessons) so I had a new Friday night dining companion. The thing is that I don’t eat much in my immediate neighborhood (though it would seem so based on recent write ups). I drew a blank on vegetarian-friendly venues.
I wondered if Frankies was still a pain to get into. I hadn’t been back since they opened in 2004, mostly because I’m bothered by crowds. Time has passed, and it turns out that you’ll still be quoted a 30-40 minute wait at 10:30 pm on a Friday. There were empty tables, too. We tried not to take it personally and enjoyed a glass of Torrontes at the backyard bar/waiting area they’ve set up on a driveway.

Normally, I would’ve picked out salumi but it’s not right eating a plate a cured meat by yourself. Instead, we chose three cheeses to share: a dry Pecorino, Pepato, a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese studded with whole peppercorns and a creamy Tallegio. The walnuts and honey were a nice touch.

When I said I hated pasta that didn’t necessarily mean light handmade pasta, the airy kind that almost falls apart when bitten. I was going to take half of the cavatelli and hot sausage home, but next thing I knew 75% was already gone. It’s the sage butter that drew me in. I do have to say that the cavatelli kind of resembled sago worms, the kind of grub that takes some getting used to. (6/27/08)

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Casa Cruz

I was inclined to pass up Casa Cruz, even though magazines and guidebooks love it and it was close enough to our apartment that I could wear heels without suffering. All the descriptions put me off, especially the notion of giant gold entrance doors (not actual gold, duh—I took a photo upon leaving but it was too dark and blurry). I was picturing cold Meatpacking district, but it was more plush Vegas. The scale of everything—those doors, towering floral arrangements, well-spaced seating—was grand. Trump would feel cozy here.

Casa cruz cocktail

I didn’t encounter cocktails so much in Buenos Aires so I was intrigued by their list containing classics and unique specialties. No matter that The Cruz cost as much as a steak in nearby restaurants. ($10 give or take). I wanted to try something with Chartreuse since you don’t see it used as a mixer that often. The result was stiff, bitter and fitting for an aperitif.

This was the only restaurant we visited that had a sommelier, not that I tend to use them because I don’t like relying on humans. We chose a Torrontes, a crisp local white that I know little about and am trying to figure out. It definitely doesn’t have the same name recognition as Malbec.

Casa cruz amuse

I wish I could remember more about this amuse other than it tasted like Parmesan cheese.

Guidebooks list Casa Cruz as Italian, which isn't really true at all. I'm not sure what cuisine this is. Many of the ingredient combinations sounded wretched (Lisa’s peanut butter mashed potatoes on Top Chef immediately came to mind) but worked on the plate. You’ll see (at least hazily—mood lighting is death for furtive flashless pics).

Casa cruz black pudding figs scallops sprouts almonds 
black pudding * figs * scallops * sprouts salad * almonds…

I’m mimicking how dishes were listed on the menu, don’t blame the pretension on me. English descriptions were on the left hand side and Spanish on the right, which was interesting for comparison. I don’t think the average American knows what black pudding is or wants to know, and would probably be more inclined to order morcilla since it sounds nicer. Of course, I ordered it because I love blood sausage.

The almonds, and even the figs made sense, sweet/savory and kind of Spanish. It was the scallops that seemed weird. They didn’t clash with the rich charcuterie at all, though.

Casa cruz grilled shrimp 
grilled shrimps * potato and pear warm salad * shrimp nage

I’m a control freak and don’t like to let James take his own photos because they tend to come out as blurred as a palsied photographer’s. He also doesn’t get close enough. I didn’t taste this dish.

Casa cruz risotto duck confit truffle oil pickled mango portabellas 
white risotto *  truffle oil * duck confit * pickled mango * portobello mushrooms

I never ever order pastas or risottos. The ingredient combination must’ve grabbed my attention, the pickled fruit specifically. Garlic and truffle oil dominated a bit, but only a bit because this dish was sumptious on all levels. It’s not like you can play down cream and duck confit. It seems odd to be recounting this item now when it’s a gazillion degrees outside and the thought of this makes my stomach hurt, but it made sense for fall weather when I was craving something substantial.

Casa cruz red tuna chimichurri bone marrow raspberries potatoes 
red tuna * chimichurri * bone marrow * raspberries * potatoes

Raspberries are obviously the odd man out in this combination. James insisted that the fruit was absent and I can't detect any hint of it in this photo either.

Casa cruz amuse 2

This was a basil tomato granita. I guess that's Italian.

Casa cruz corn creme brulee black current dulce de leche 
corn crème brulee * black currant * dulce de leche * cinnamon sugar

This was a take on crema Catalan, a flatter, spread out Spanish crème brulee. The sweet corn kind of gave a rice pudding effect while the dulce de leche didn’t register at all. I was really hoping for more caramel flavor.

I expected more scene than substance from Casa Cruz and was wrong. The setting felt luxurious without being stuffy and the food was genuinely good. Of course my perception might be clouded by the amazing exchange rate and foreign locale. I wouldn’t like this restaurant in NYC at all. It just wouldn’t work.

Lion earring

At the very least, I was happy for the chance to wear my new cute/tacky Target earrings with laser cut lions (I'm a leo, I can't help it). I don’t normally wear much, if any, jewelry, and never gold-toned, so these might’ve languished in a drawer for months. Thank you, Casa Cruz for the opportunity.

Casa Cruz * Buenos Aries, Argentina


This is definitely not New York pizza. Just look at all that cheese. I only had time to try pizza once in Buenos Aires and consequently chose what I thought was the most common style: Pizza a la piedra. Pizza a la parrilla, grilled, thin crusted (and probably most to my liking) and pizza al molde, a deep dish pie, can also be found in the city.

Guerrin sells slices up front where diners stand at counters. Table seating is beyond the fray in the back of the restaurant. The multi-paged menu you’re handed lists a ridiculous number of combinations categorized by headings, some which mystified me. Roquefort had its own section, and yes, all the pizzas beneath it contained blue cheese.


The most common toppings consist of green olives (whole with pits, which are tricky to eat), morrones (red peppers) and faina, a thin chickpea cake that people just plop on top of their slices. I purchased a lovely product called Fugafaina, which I'm assuming is the chickpea flour used to make these garbanzo bean delicacies.

Guerrin olive ham tomato pizza

This is the Especial Guerrin with ham, red peppers, and those tricky green olives. The brininess and the generous cheese really get to you and demand pacing. There’s nothing dainty about these pizzas. I think Americans would really dig Argentinean-style pizza. In fact, Americans would like Argentinean cuisine across the board if they knew more about it. We have a lot in common with this meat and potatoes loving culture.

Guerrin onion peppers ham pizza

I ordered one whose name I can’t recall. This used red peppers and ham, as well as a ton of sliced onions. You had better like those onions. A generous sprinkling of oregano spruced up the pizzas.

We ordered two smalls, but really should’ve just shared one. I was inclined to just leave our leftover four slices but our waiter insisted in wrapping them to go. As I’ve mentioned before, I appreciated Buenos Aires’s no food wasting spirit. I’m a glutton but that doesn’t mean I have an insatiable appetite.

Guerrin * Corrientes 1368, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Lucky Mojo

3/4 Cajun, Tex-Mex, bbq and sushi? Sounds like kitchen nightmare waiting to happen. The cuisine at Lucky Mojo is about as convoluted as the restaurant’s history. This cavernous bi-level, barn-like space is the current incarnation of the now-shuttered Upper West Side Jacques-Imo’s, which was an offshoot of a popular New Orleans restaurant.

Lucky mojo interior

I liked my meal on a visit to Louisiana some time ago, never heard anything good about the NYC version and was even more scared of this Long Island City mishmash. It’s not the kind of place you go out of your way for, but if the urge for sushi and etoufee strikes while you’re at the Water Taxi Beach, Lucky Mojo is your place.

Lucky mojo crawfish sushi

There’s a full on sushi bar upstairs, which churns out standard rolls in addition to specialties like this one using crawfish and Tabasco.

Lucky mojo shrimp & alligator cheesecake

I was not weirded out by the shrimp and alligator cheesecake because it’s a Jacques-Imo’s signature that I’ve had before. It only sounds creepy because they call it a cheesecake, which it is–oh, and because alligator meat doesn’t sit well with some. The alligator is in sausage form and with all of the cream and spices you would have no idea you were eating a water reptile unless someone told you. No, this is not healthy food but split among four it was reasonable.

Lucky mojo bbq shrimp

Bbq shrimp is another frighteningly rich New Orleans dish that has nothing to do with barbecue sauce or grilling. I’ve had a wonderful rendition of this buttery, Worcestershire and black pepper drenched treat, and this didn’t quite match. The rice was on the undercooked side, too. And they forgot my side of collard greens.

 Lucky mojo shrimp po boy

I did not taste this shrimp po boy.

Lucky mojo catfish sandwich

Nor the catfish sandwich.

Lucky mojo vegetarian tacos

Vegetarian taco. What more needs to be said?

As we finished our meal, my dining companions and I began discussing a movie we were about to watch, The Great Happiness Space: Tale of an Osaka Love Thief, about gender reversal host bars where young Japanese women pay good money for the attention of hired men. The Japanese propensity for fantasy indulging and role-playing gave us a brilliant idea: Beta Kappa McPaddysteins.

This would be a faux frat house where Japanese girls would shell out big bucks for a simulated American-style date rape experience. Don’t worry, no sex would actually occur, this would be a professional establishment. First, our patrons would be serenaded by Dave Mathews and sloppily wooed by gentleman in cargo shorts, flip flops and baseball caps. Beer pong would be played and jello shots would be in abundance. Good clean fun, a little cosplay never hurt anyone.

Huh, and then our waiter broke up our genius business plan when he stopped by with a tray of shots. Did he overhear? Did he want in on the action? No way, mister, Beta Kappa McPaddysteins is all mine.

Read my less date rapey take on Lucky Mojo for

Lucky Mojo * Long Island City, NY


It’s a shame that the only passable Mexican restaurant in South Brooklyn shuttered last year, but I must admit that I always turned to other neighborhoods when in need of a taco so I wasn’t exactly a El Huipil loyalist. (I also just noticed that I only gave them 1.5 shovel, which was kind of harsh. Maybe I've grown into a softie because now I tend to give even mediocre places 2 shovels.)

Now the space houses Viva, more in a Tex-Mex vein. I’m inclined to think that the new proprietors aren’t Mexican—black beans and yellow rice feel more Caribbean and the back page of the menu lists “Latin” food—but I’m hardly an ethnicity detective. And it’s not like the clientele, seemingly made up of non-Hispanic families with lots of kids and locals looking for cheap takeout, care who’s cooking their chimichanga. The fact that we had to ask for salsa, suspiciously absent from the table, was also telling.

I’ve been exploring western Carroll Gardens and Red Hook a lot lately. I like the area and I’m frequently too lazy to leave 11231. We wanted to drive by the Ikea (and peek at an overpriced house for sale on Van Brunt Street) and get the crap scared out of us. There’s no way I was setting foot on the property opening weekend, but we wanted to witness some mayhem. The parking lot had filled and cars were backed up in all directions despite traffic cops. On the short drive from our apartment to Ikea we witnessed I don’t know how many wrong turns down one-way streets, general scared confusion and pleas for directions.
I’m not anti-car, obviously, but people shouldn’t be allowed on the road if they have absolutely no idea where they are, where they’re going or how to follow signs. I thought everyone had GPSs and we were just too cheap to spring for modern navigation devices. And that was just outside. Poor drivers make even worse pedestrians so I can only imagine the trouble inside those blue and yellow walls.

I perked back up after seeing the handwritten “$1.99 margarita with entrée” scrawled on Viva’s brief paper menu. This turned out to be a strong drink (yes, I equate strong with good). I prefer my beverages on the rocks rather than blended, which wasn’t an option, but apparently frozen cocktails are now all the rage so they were ahead of the curve.


Chicken enchiladas were perfectly adequate, no complaints. However, I’m not sure why the waitress warned me that they come topped with melted cheese. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Clearly, there have been lactose-adverse complainers in the past. The one thing I’ve never understood about Tex-Mex restaurants–at least in the North because I’ve never been to Texas–is why filling choices are usually limited to chicken, ground beef and cheese. Where’s the pork?

Viva * 116 Sullivan St., Brooklyn, NY

Don’t Candy Coat It

Mms Is putting your mug on an M&M old news? I noticed a banner ad the other day that showed what looked to be wedding favors, M&Ms with the newly married couple’s faces on them. I was skeeved out, but it doesn’t take much to put me in that state. If they’d personalized a Jordan almond I might’ve been more forgiving.

I see all sorts of wretched I Do(nut) applications for this sweet technology.

I guess that speculating what that M&M inside of you looks like ran its course and we’ve now resorted to simply stamping our likenesses on the candy shell?

I will admit to a weakness for mass customization, though. Take a gander at what you can do with dolls. My Twinn introduced me to this creepy concept a decade ago and AndGor and Tiny Pocket People have been carrying on the tradition.


1/2 Not all Argentinean food revolves around steak and pasta. In fact, there are quite a few regional specialties that I wish I had more time to learn about. Cumaná serves food from the northern part of the country and standouts include empanadas and hearty casseroles dubbed cazuelas for the clay vessels they’re cooked in. I don’t know that you’d want to eat heavy, steaming bowls meat and legumes in the middle of summer, but this was perfect for June sweater weather.

Cumana interior  

This was the only restaurant other than La Cabrera where we had to wait for a table, about 20 minutes around 1pm on a weekday. It’s clearly popular, the tables are a little squished and I guess it’s noisy, all par for the course here in NYC. (The dreamer/hipster guy who worked for our apartment management company and who was fixated on showing us camera phone photos of his restored Fiat and describing a fantasy wine bar he wanted to open, told us he lives right near Cumaná but doesn’t go because it’s too loud. He also won’t visit NYC because he likes “everything to be perfect.” He was totally a Williamsburg boyfriend; seemingly easygoing, slacker on the surface, and it’s all a façade hiding how fussy and high-maintenance they truly are.)

Cumana calabaza, humita queso & lomo picante empanadas

We started with empanadas, and once again had the portion perception problem. I only ordered two fearing they might be gigantic. They weren’t. And lots of tables had big piles being served to them on circular wooden trays.

Argentinean empanadas are baked, so it didn’t feel as unhealthy as the greasy crescents you find in these parts. We split a lomo picante, chopped beef that unsurprisingly was not spicy at all, and another containing calabaza, corn and white cheese, which was sweet though not dessert sweet. They were thin and charred like mini-calzones (which was a separate menu item—I would’ve been curious to see the difference).

I have a decent Spanish food vocabulary though I hardly know every ingredient. I knew I wanted locro, a classic stew of corn, squash and meaty bits but I couldn’t decipher every cazuela listed. I was fairly certain mondongo featured tripe, a soup I associate more with the Caribbean than South America. Who knew?

Cumana locro

Locro seemed a bit dull on paper—I can be biased against seemingly simple food—which wasn’t the truth in person. The kernels turned out to be hominy, which I love and small chunks of smoked pork permeated the stew.

Cumana lentejas

James was hemming and hawing over lentejas, which he thought might be lentils but worried that it could be liver. I could think of the words for kidneys, hearts, intestines, sweetbreads, tongue and brain but was blank on liver. Hígado, as it turns out, so lentejas were beans and not offal.

We were brought grated parmesan and I’m not sure if it was intended for a particular dish or if aged cheese is appropriate for everything. This is the stuff you don’t think about when eating unfamiliar food. I expect to be stymied by condiments and proper eating procedures in Asia, but it’s not something I counted on happening in Argentina.

Cumaná * Rodríguez Peña 1149, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Zero-Calorie Steak

Papercraft steak

After all this recent beef talk, I was happy to chance upon papercraft steaks. Made in Japan, of course.

Sunday Night Special: Rib-Eye Steak with Pan-Seared Grape Tomatoes

Steak and grape tomatoes

I don’t usually make cover recipes but the July Gourmet’s Porterhouse Steak with Pan-Seared Cherry Tomatoes seemed very simple (it’s been too humid for any serious cooking lately) and gave me the excuse to try the Grazin’ Angus Acres’s beef at Carroll Gardens’s tiny Sunday farmers market. Unfortunately, tomatoes aren’t really here yet (I just ate three cherry tomatoes in my Pret a Manger cobb salad and the tartness was none too pleasing, though the salad overall was better than expected) and I had to settle for regular grape tomatoes.

Yes, it’s a little strange that when food prices are getting out of control, I decide to start paying double for meat. I’ve never been one for organics and this isn’t something I’ll be able to make a habit of, I was just curious about American grass-fed beef after my steak binge in Buenos Aires. I did opt for a rib eye instead of the porterhouse because the latter tends to be large and there’s no convincing myself to spend $40+ for one piece of meat. I kind of justified the $23/lb rib eye because I decided to stop taking a $50 monthly prescription (not birth control pills—heavens). Maybe I can swing a locally raised steak once a month, which is plenty for anyone.

The meat definitely turned out more rare than medium-rare. It’s my own fault for not using a thermometer even though I have two, one digital, the other old-fashioned. You would think that I would’ve learned after six years of using an undercooking Magic Chef brand stove (it is not lost on me that my fancy Carroll Gardens apartment has the same exact lame stove that was in my former crappy Sunset Park apartment. Yes, there’s something sad about paying 3.73 times as much rent and still getting the same cheap appliances and 15 inches of counter space) and countless Thanksgivings with a turkey that takes an abnormal amount of time to reach doneness that I would compensate and cook my meat for longer than recommended (six minutes in this instance).

Grazin' angus acres rib-eye steak

Regardless, this a fitting showcase for pristine beef. I tried to savor each bite and detect differences from the usual cuts I buy from Western Beef. I don’t doubt that I could tell the difference between a grocery store steak and one fresh from the farm; meat isn’t as esoteric to me as say, wine tasting. As I’ve said before, beef isn’t my favorite meat because it’s usually overwhelming, murky and one-note. This steak had a clean flavor, if that makes any sense. I noticed the biggest difference when I gnawed bits off of the bone and the shreds were just slightly gamey, kind of like some country hams and Spanish cured pork. The basil, tomatoes and garlic were slightly sweet without distracting from the meat. 

Of course, Gourmet’s photography is 50 times more attractive than mine. But it's the taste that counts, right?